His watch read 23:08. Eight minutes past Garrison curfew that even Lieutenants had to abide by. But Admiral Sanda’s room was on the complete opposite end of the base, and if he got caught, he’d just whip out a smile and say he forgot something in the showers, just like in his cadet days.
Adam’s room was just two hallways over, and he’d memorized the route as well as the security patrol pattern, so he could slip through the building without getting caught.
At exactly 23:11, he stepped up to the metal door separating him from warm eyes and and even warmer embrace, and knocked three times.
The door swished open into a dark room, seemingly empty from the dim hallway.
A quick hand reached out and pulled him inside, metal swishing behind him signifying that they were alone in the room, closed away from the rest of the world.
“You’re out past curfew, Shirogane,” Adam’s voice purred teasingly in the darkness.
Shiro could feel wandering hands exploring their way around him, holding him close as the scent of peppermint toothpaste attacked his neck.
“You’re the one that always wants to meet in your room,” he laughed, leaning back away from the lips and hands assaulting him to turn the lamp on next to the bed.
“You’re better at getting out of trouble when you get caught,” Adam laughed.
The faint light illuminated his hazel eyes, staring Shiro down with a hunger as he dragged him right back in, shifting over to the bed and setting the younger man on his lap as he sat.
“I missed you today,” he said, peppering kisses along Shiro’s jaw as his hands fumbled around unbuttoning their uniforms.
“I’m sorry...Iverson kept me late after class to talk about the Kerberos mission,” Shiro sighed.
He’d leant into each press of Adam’s lips until they suddenly stopped.
“The Kerberos mission?”
Shiro looked down, immediately regretting mentioning the topic as Adam looked up at him with furrowed eyebrows.
“Are you still on that? I thought we decided you weren’t going to go?”
“We never really decided-”
“Do you not remember what happened last time? Why you have to wear that bracelet? The last one nearly killed you. Your condition worsened twice as fast under the stress, and you want to go back?”
Adam’s voice was calm, but there was a hint of hurt and anger laced into it. Shiro knew what the last mission put the man through, having to watch as his boyfriend went under surgery as soon as he was pulled from the ship. Hearing him scream in pain as the Garrison doctors unfroze his shocked muscles and implanted his wrist device.
Adam had taken special care the next few weeks, making sure Shiro was healing well, giving him lots of attention, and saying how much he loved him, over and over until he was released to start working again.
It was hard for both of them, and Shiro knew that was all Adam was focusing on with this new mission.
“It’ll be different this time,” Shiro said, trying to calm Adam’s worries. “Sam Holt will be going with me, and if there’s any problems, he can help me out. Plus, I’ll have the wrist device on me at all times, which will help as we’re out there.”
“Takashi, I don’t want you to get hurt again. This mission isn’t a good idea. You only have a few more years like this before the disease takes over, do you really want to spend it out in space?”
Yes, was the answer on Shiro’s tongue. But he knew once he said it, the night would be ruined.
“I don’t know.”
Adam raised a hand to Shiro’s face, his expression pained, but loving. Shiro knew he just wanted the best for him, but this would be the last mission Shiro would ever be able to go on, and all he wanted to do was see the stars one last time.
“We can talk about it more later,” Shiro continued, wrapping his arms around Adam’s neck. “Right now, I don’t want to think about anything but your lips on mine.”
He smiled that smile that could get him out of anything and watched as Adam’s worries melted away into want.
Adam brought their mouths together, leaning back to let them fall onto the bed, lips moving perfectly in sync, the way the two of them had as flight partners, now so much more. Shiro’s tongue licked across Adam’s bottom lip, kissing him deeper as he opened up, hands curling into the thick of Shiro’s hair.
They were suddenly flipped, Adam leaning over him, his cologne filling Shiro’s senses as they scooted further up the bed, finding enough room for the two of them to easily fit on the small surface.
“Don’t think the conversation is dropped,” Adam said between movements. He nibbled lightly on Shiro’s neck, making sure not to leave a mark that would show above his collar tomorrow. “We’re talking about this later.”
“I know,” Shiro panted. “But for now, shut up and kiss me.”
Adam breathed out a laugh.
Shiro pulled Adam’s face to his, squeezing their lips together in the quiet room, panting hard and making sure their voices didn’t carry down the hall so late after curfew.
Shiro didn’t even look at the picture on the shelf as he walked into the lounge. It always made him smile, but right now, that was the last thing he wanted to do.
“Everything okay?” Adam’s concerned voice asked.
Shiro slung his bag onto the couch across from the table, sighing to himself as he sat down.
“Iverson thinks I shouldn’t be part of the mission. Called in the big guns. Admiral Sanda showed up and tried to convince Sam to remove me from the crew,” Shiro said. He rubbed at his wrist device, arm acting up from the stress of the meeting.
“Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe you shouldn’t go on the mission,” Adam said, turning around to face him. “You’ll only be putting yourself at risk.”
“You know how important this is to me,” Shiro snapped. “It’s worth the risk.”
He could feel himself starting to get upset. He looked down, trying to avoid his boyfriend’s gaze, when he heard the clink of Adam slamming down his mug.
“Takashi. How important am I to you?”
Shiro’s head shot up, confusion wracking his brain at Adam’s words.
“Every mission, every drill, I’ve been right there with you. But this is more than a mission. This is your life at stake.”
“Don’t start that again, Adam,” Shiro scoffed. “You don’t need to protect me. This is something I need to do for myself.”
“There’s nothing left for you to prove. You’ve broken every record there is to break,” Adam said. He stood from his seat and looked to the floor. “I know I can’t stop you...but I won’t go through this again. So if you decide to go, don’t expect me to be here when you get back.”
Their eyes met. Shiro saw that same look of pain in Adam’s gaze, but the love behind it was harsh, almost cold. It broke Shiro’s heart more than Adam’s words.
“I’ve got a class to teach.”
Anger mixed with sadness built up in Shiro’s being as Adam walked away.
He didn’t understand. He never would. But Shiro would prove it to him, that the mission was worth it.
He was going on that mission no matter what.
Shiro laid on the cold metal ground. He’d just defeated another challenger in the gladiator ring and was swiftly thrown back into his cell. His body was littered with cuts and bruises, aching and bleeding onto the damp floor below him. Somehow the adrenaline of fearing for his life made his muscles relax enough to win fight after fight. But when he was alone again, heart rate declining back to normal and shivering from the lack of heat in the Galran prison, he tensed up all over again. They’d taken his wrist device and smashed it in front of him the day they were captured. The first few months, his screams would echo through the bars, pain unbearable. But after a while, he’d started seizing silently, well used to the dulled ache. Besides, he knew nothing hurt worse than the pain of knowing he would never see Adam again.
Adam. He’d been right all along. And now he probably thought Shiro was dead.
“Adam...” Shiro breathed, eyes squeezed shut and muscles hurting too much to actually speak. “I’m so sorry.”
A tear fell from his eyes, mixing into the blood stained on the ground.
Just then, Shiro heard the sentries walk by outside, steps even as they patrolled the hallways. It reminded him of when he’d sneak into Adam’s room after curfew...
His eyes shot open and he listened intently to the guards. As the next sentries passed by, he timed their steps, how long it took them to pass by, and how far away the next patrol was.
He let himself get used to it. A pattern that he could follow, more finely tuned than the one at the Garrison. Not even the loss of his arm detracted from getting himself out. It took weeks to get it into his body, so he could feel his way around with ease, and by the next time the guards came to feed him, he’d figured out his escape plan. He knocked out the guards before they shut the door, pulling them inside and running down the hall before the next sentries could spot him. He timed each hallway, counting their steps and sneaking by after they’d passed.
As he reached the escape pods, he felt a wave of relief fall over him.
“Adam,” he said to himself. “I’m coming home.”
He wasn’t a pilot. He knew that. Shiro was always the pilot, he was just his right hand. But they needed pilots, and now that Shiro was gone, Adam didn’t see why he shouldn’t take his place in the fight.
If only he’d taken his place in the Kerberos mission, maybe he’d still be alive. And Adam wouldn’t have had to deal with his death alone.
That’s why he signed up as a fighter pilot. He’d fight for Shiro, because that’s what Shiro would do.
His team was good, best in the Garrison. When it was time to be called out to the fight, he was ready.
Suicide, someone had called it. Sounded about right. They were going up against an enemy they hadn’t fought before, that they had no idea how to beat. And they were outnumbered.
But he gave it his best, he fought as hard as he could, even when his team was taken out and he was the last one left.
When the beam hit his plane, he screamed.
He expected it to be painful, but instead it was quick. He didn’t feel a thing.
The light fell over his face.
He thought of Shiro, and smiled.
It had been three years on Earth. Three years everywhere, since anyone had heard from Voltron. They’d been thrown through time after the explosion with Lotor, and everyone thought they were dead. But they’d reached contact with Earth, and were breaking the atmosphere and crashing into the desert in no time.
They were escorted to the Garrison’s base upon arrival, and Shiro watched as his friends were reunited with their families. It made his heart swell, knowing that his team, his friends had family to come home to.
Family to Shiro had changed meaning long ago. He considered the paladins family; after being out in space with them for so long, how could he not? Sam and Matt Holt were also family to him. But the family he wanted to see most, was the person he’d called family first.
“Where’s Adam?” he’d asked Iverson, a big smile on his face.
But the smile depleted the longer Iverson stared at him, unanswering.
“Follow me, son.”
Iverson brought him to a room inside, empty save for a long wall in the middle. Tiny plaques in rows lined the wall, all names of fallen soldiers and civilians that had fought against Sendak in the name of the Earth.
Shiro was confused for only a moment. He didn’t want to accept what this meant. Not until a name and a face that were so familiar to him caught his eye, right in the midst of the other hundred, if not thousands of names littered across the memorial.
“Adam,” Shiro whispered. His voice caught in his throat.
...don’t expect me to be here when you get back...
He still looked so young in the photograph.
Shiro wished more than anything that he could take his place. He’d been through so much, he’d escaped death so many times. If anyone deserved to be dead it was him, not Adam. Yet here he was, more alive than when he left for Kerberos, staring at the memorial of the man he loved, who was taken far too soon.
“It’s because of them that Earth still has a chance,” he heard Iverson say behind him.
It was supposed to be comforting, Shiro knew. But he couldn’t help but feel like it was his fault. If only they’d gotten here sooner-
“It’s time for our debriefing.”
Iverson’s voice cut his thoughts short. As the man’s footsteps retreated, Shiro took one last look at the wall.
“Goodbye, Adam,” he said quietly, and followed Iverson out.
“We kept his old room if you’d like to see it,” Sam said.
The argument with Admiral Sanda had made Shiro’s mood worse. He’d been standing to the side, lost in his thoughts after the meeting and hadn’t even heard the man approach.
“Adam,” Sam clarified. “I knew once the paladins returned, you’d want to see it again before it was cleaned out.”
“Y-Yes. Yes, I want to see it. Please.”
Sam gave Shiro the keycard, and he started down the hall, the way to Adam’s room still engraved perfectly into his mind.
Automatically, his hand raised to knock, three times, just like always. But he stopped midway, remembering that no one was on the other side to let him in. He swiped the card and the door swished open, but no hand reached out to pull him inside.
As he stepped in, he moved to the lamp next to the bed, flicking it on to cast a yellow glow to the room. Memories flooded his vision as the room came into view, of hushed giggles and silent gasps late into the night, quiet sobbing and holding each other close after the news of his disease. Their first kiss, their first everything, here, in this small room. But it felt wrong. No hazel eyes shined bright in the dim glow, no hands tugged at his shirt or curled into his hair. Just Shiro, replaying what once was.
The room was exactly as it had been before Shiro left, just with more living inside it, until there wasn’t. The bed covers were pulled back, as if Adam had left in a hurry and forgot to make it before he went. On the desk were papers and books scattered all over, each with his handwriting scrawled neatly throughout. And a picture frame had been knocked over, but as Shiro righted it, he knew why. It was the picture from the shelf in the lounge. Shiro and Adam, flight partners turned romantic partners, and just as in love with space as they were with each other.
Shiro wiped off the dust and placed the picture back down on the desk, pulling out the chair to take a seat. As he looked closer, the papers looked like research, spread out with newspaper articles about the Kerberos mission, most with pictures of who Shiro used to be.
Had Adam been searching for him this whole time?
He lifted a few of the papers on top, trying to see the rest, and heard a quiet thud underneath. A small leather bound journal had been mixed in with Adam’s research, and Shiro pulled it out and opened it.
It was almost like a diary, dated back to the Kerberos mission and continuing sporadically until the initial attack on Earth.
Shiro flipped though, noting most of it was work or research related, until a worn page stuck out, and he saw that it was a letter, addressed to him.
You’ll never read this letter, but I wanted to write to you anyway. Maybe just to get my emotions out? Or make up for what I said to you.
I’m sorry, Takashi. I’m so sorry. I know it’s too late, but all I have anymore are wishes. I wish I could have seen you off. I wish I had kissed you goodbye and told you to come back safe — not that it would have mattered. But mostly, I wish everyday that I could have held you in my arms one last time. Supported you. Made sure you knew how proud I
was am of you.
I didn’t want to believe the Garrison when they said it was a pilot’s error. You were the best damned pilot out there, there’s no way it could have been your fault. Part of me wants to believe you’re still out there, kicking alien butt and discovering new worlds. It’s what keeps me going these days. Thinking you’ll come home to me.
I can’t get what I said out of my mind. I told you I wouldn’t be here when you got back, but I would have been. I only ever wanted to protect you, but I went about it the wrong way, and it took you away from me too early. I wish I could take it back. I was angry, and jealous that you chose the mission over me. But nothing, not even that could make my heart stop beating for you.
I love you, Takashi. You’re my soulmate. And I’ll always be here, waiting, hoping, wishing.
I miss you. So much.
Yours, always and forever, Adam
Reading Adam’s final words to him, how he still loved him, that he never gave up, that he always believed in him, even after everything, it was all so much. So much worry and anger on Shiro’s part. So much grief and regret on Adam’s.
Shiro moved to the bed, no longer able to stay upright.
It felt strange, laying there alone, without another body hovering over him, whispering secrets and promises into his ears and sealing them with a kiss.
He pulled the covers over himself and snuggled deeper into the bed, but as he did, the scent of cheap cologne surrounded him like a security blanket. Along the pillow, the sheets, long forgotten and empty, Adam still lingered, as if he was hovering, just out of reach, faint whispers disappearing into the air.
The tears Shiro had been holding back finally spilled over. Sobs raked his body, the room no longer quiet, but filled with the pain of the past five years. Every fight, every heartache, with Voltron, with Kerberos, with Adam — the one who he’d fought so long and hard in the name of, who he’d stayed strong for, all for nothing. And it hurt. So much.
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Adam.”
Shiro’s eyes opened slowly, tears clouding his vision, but the voice, he recognized. He sat up, and stared his love in the face.
“Hey, Takashi. You’ve been gone for so long.”
“I know. I didn’t mean to, I- You were right, I shouldn’t have- I’m so-”
“Shh, it’s okay,” Adam soothed.
Shiro took in a shaky breath, trying to even out his voice. He had so much he wanted to say, but he couldn’t bring his voice to say any of it.
“I miss you,” were the only words his mouth allowed him.
“I miss you, too, Takashi.”
“I thought about you every day. Knowing you were alive kept me going, but I- I don’t want to fight anymore,” he cried. “I-I can’t.”
“Yes, you can.”
Shiro shook his head, tears reappearing in his eyes, but Adam reached out a hand to still him, touching his face. It was like he was made of sunlight, so bright and happy, and though Shiro couldn’t feel it, just knowing it was there, that Adam was watching over him, brought him a calmness he didn’t know he had.
“You’ve been so strong, and it isn’t for nothing. It’s for you. You’re a fighter. You always have been, and nothing has stopped you yet. So keep going.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
Adam smiled at him, and though Shiro knew it wasn’t real, it filled him with warmth, just as it used to.
“I love you,” Adam said, “so much.”
“I love you.”
The figure started to disappear, light fluttering and dissolving into the dim glow of the room.
“Adam?” Shiro said as the hand left his face. He tried to reach out but found nothing to hold onto. “Adam, wait-!”
Shiro woke with a start, Adam’s name tumbling from his lips as he sat up. He was alone in Adam’s room, just as he had been before falling asleep. He checked his watch, 23:08.
He was sure Iverson would forgive him for being out this late, and if not, he’d just use that smile of his that Adam always said got him out of trouble.
He climbed out of the bed, tucking the covers into place and grabbed the picture frame and the leather bound journal from the desk. Tomorrow he’d talk to Sam about getting the room cleared out so that someone else could use it.
He turned out the lamp and the room grew dark once more. As he walked out the door, his heart felt less heavy, and he was ready to keep fighting in the battle against evil. For his friends. For humanity. For himself. But mostly, for Adam.
There isn’t one of us here today who hasn’t experienced the tragedy of losing someone close. It truly feels like a light has gone out in our lives and the sun itself couldn’t reignite it. But that light, that fire has not gone out completely. It is fueled within each of us by the memories and the love of those we’ve lost. And now, we must move forward in their names. And shine that light onto a new path for future generations.